Tay Son Uprising, The: Society and Rebellion in Eighteenth-century Vietnamby George Dutton
The Tay Son uprising (1771–1802) was a cataclysmic event that profoundly altered the eighteenth-century Vietnamese political and social landscape. This groundbreaking book offers a new look at an important and controversial era. George Dutton follows three brothers from the hamlet of Tay Son as they led a heterogeneous military force that ousted ruling families in both halves of the divided Vietnamese territories and eventually toppled the 350-year-old Le dynasty. Supplementing Vietnamese primary sources with extensive use of archival European missionary accounts, he explores the dynamics of an event that affected every region of the country and every level of society. Tracing the manner in which the Tay Son leaders transformed an inchoate uprising into a new political regime, Dutton challenges common depictions of the Tay Son brothers as visionaries or revolutionaries. Instead, he reveals them as political opportunists whose worldview remained constrained by their provincial origins and the exigencies of ongoing warfare and political struggles.
Dutton uses the Tay Son movement as a lens through which to examine the complex social dynamics precipitated by events of the period. Most notably, he shows how enthusiastic peasant support for the Tay Son brothers' early promises to end corruption, abolish unjust taxation, and redistribute wealth quickly faded when confronted by the harsh realities of life under a regime constantly at war. In addition to rebel leaders and peasants, he examines groups living at the margins of eighteenth-century Vietnamese society: outlaws, pirates, upland and coastal ethnic groups, and Vietnamese Christians. Each of these played important roles in the Tay Son era-roles often overlooked or misrepresented in previous studies.
This absorbing work, the first detailed English-language study of the Tay Son uprising, provides a detailed portrait of one of the most complex periods of early modem Vietnamese history. It reveals a heterogeneous society in transition and a divided state moving along a difficult path toward greater integration. Readers interested in Asian popular uprisings, early modem social history, and the contested interactions between state and society will find this an engaging and balanced study.
About the Author
GEORGE DUTTON is assistant professor in the UCLA Department of Asian Languages and Cultures and chair of the UCLA Interdepartmental Program in Southeast Asian Studies.